What Is the Future of Captain America?
The creative team responsible for Steve Rogers’ destiny—Collin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, and Carmen Carnero—dishes on what’s in store in ‘Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty.’
Listen to Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing talk to Marvel’s Pull List about the first arc of CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY!
Since last summer and the launch of ongoing series CAPTAIN AMERICA: SENTINEL OF LIBERTY (2022), writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing—alongside artist Carmen Carnero—have been putting the living legend of World War II through his paces. In that time, the trio have rocked Steve Rogers‘ world with a major new threat that boasts insidious roots in some of his staunchest allies.
With the most insane events still to come as part of the “Sentinel of Liberty” itinerary in 2023, we pulled over the creative team to take a quick look in the rearview and to preview what’s next.
With nearly a year of this title under your collective belt, what have you learned about Steve Rogers and his world?
CARMEN CARNERO: Personally, I have completely fallen in love with the character because of how he sees the world and how he feels about it. But what makes Steve even greater is that he is surrounded by people who would do anything for him without a second's hesitation out of sheer trust.
COLLIN KELLY: One of the things that has been eye-opening for me is how large the action of Captain America can be. Seeing how Carmen brought the pages to life gave Jackson and me the capability to push for more jaw-dropping excitement, more explosions, and more chances for Steve to throw his mighty shield!
JACKSON LANZING: I’ve become low-key obsessed with Steve Rogers’ emotional state—how this one man can take on the weight of the world without breaking. He’s a paragon that doesn’t view himself as a paragon; a good man who just wants to keep being a good man, and a person who truly blossoms as part of a community. Putting him through a ringer that really makes him question those fundamental parts of [his personality]—those friends he’s made along the way, especially—has just been a wonderful thing to explore as a writer. There’s nothing quite like making Steve Rogers sad… and then seeing him pull through anyway.
What have been your personal highlights of the first seven issues?
JACKSON LANZING: Issue #4 really let us sink into Steve’s community and tell a story that wasn’t about big Super Hero action, but rather about the fundamental nature of Steve Rogers as an inspirational figure. Here’s a man who’s been through a century of action and yet he’s still open to learning, still stretching his horizons, still looking for the good in all people. That issue remains a real gem for me—while this whole run has been a lovely chance to drill down on that aspect of the character, issue #4 is the one we earmarked for Steve to never put on the suit. I’m so glad it worked.
COLLIN KELLY: Is it tacky to say that it’s the fans’ reaction? Writing Steve Rogers is a bucket list character for us that we never imagined we would get to cross off…but we also knew that this needed to be a story that was uniquely us, and not a remix of what’s come before. We all like junk food, but finally being in the kitchen meant we were going to cook a full meal. And we’re so thrilled that so many have sat down to eat.
The Outer Circle and the Century Game are pretty lofty concepts to kick off a comic with—where did the ideas for these groups come from?
COLLIN KELLY: Like Steve’s life in so many ways, it started with the shield. We knew that the inner star was meant to be Steve (and later, the Starpoints), and we knew that the rings around it would be the secret systems of the world that seemed to be pulling the strings. But the last ring—the Outer Circle—we knew needed to be something special. Not another Super Villain cabal looking for world domination—it’s so easy to punch a villain and save the world—but something that represented the entrenched systems that have grown around us over the course of the last hundred years. By turning those concepts into people, we gave faces to those forces—and knowing that those forces are in constant conflict, the Century Game came to be. Jackson and I have both designed [tabletop role-playing games], so diving into the actual rules of the Game was a highlight for us—and who knows, perhaps one day there will be a home version for you to play with your friends!
Was there any hesitation either on your part or from the editorial team about connecting Bucky Barnes to the Outer Circle? Again, it’s a major change, but seemed to fit seamlessly.
JACKSON LANZING: We knew that the Century Game would shade many iconic Marvel characters’ histories with a new hue—which is an enormous responsibility and a real black eye if you get it wrong. But proceeding from a place of fear or hesitation isn’t an ideal place from which to start to tell a great story; we looked at Bucky’s history and saw a gigantic hole of possibility that begged to be filled. So we saw our job as one of pushing the envelope and relying on the guidance of our incredible editors: Alanna Smith, Kaitlyn Lindtvedt, and on this point especially Tom Brevoort. Tom came in with a list of questions a mile long and made sure that we could answer any and all of that before we went on to script a single line. We definitely credit that interrogation with the seamless nature of the revelation.
Do you feel the Outer Circle has already altered Cap irrevocably?
COLLIN KELLY: The Outer Circle has done something few have ever done: they’ve shaken Steve Rogers to his core. By undermining his faith in the shield, they’ve undermined his faith in the mission; by turning Bucky Barnes, they’ve undermined his faith in himself. To move past this pain, Steve will have to heal these wounds—and in healing, create a scar that may never fully fade away.
What makes the Outer Circle a different kind of opponent for Cap and Bucky?
JACKSON LANZING: While in many ways they should remind the reader of the Secret Empire or the Illuminati—other Marvel secret societies that have found themselves opposed by Steve Rogers—the Outer Circle are special because they make the fight personal. These are representations of the forces that created Captain America—and modern America in general as an extension. They’re not just faceless villains or a cabal of super-people, they’re the actual mechanisms of power, wealth, technology, culture, and their opposite: revolution. They force Captain America and Bucky Barnes into a kind of radical paradigm, one where they are insurgents in very different ways. This isn’t a problem you can punch. It’s a problem you have to fight systemically…which isn’t something either of those men are terribly good at, to begin with. So that right there is a challenge worthy of a run.
I love the new civilian life you’ve established for Steve—will we get to see more of it and the supporting cast?
COLLIN KELLY: Yes! As we roll into our second arc the action is going to come home to Manhattan, and there is going to be (hopefully understandably) less time for the kind of casual friendship beats that we all know and love. But, you don’t become friends with Captain America and not learn a few tricks, so rest assured that David, Amari, Mia, and Hudson absolutely have their role to play.
Is Sharon Carter’s return permanent or is it too soon to say?
JACKSON LANZING: Permanent. We’ve been pretty vocal about how we have a plan for Sharon. You’ll see that unfurl in the next few months and really come to full fruition in “Cold War.”
We’ve seen the impact the Outer Circle have had on Cap and particularly Bucky, but is there still more to come with their influence on Peggy Carter?
COLLIN KELLY: Oh man, oh yes there is! In fact, we’re going to [tranquilizer dart flies from the shadows and hits Collin in the neck. He collapses.]
SHADOWED FIGURE THAT LOOKS SURPRISINGLY A LOT LIKE EDITOR ALANNA SMITH, PUTTING DOWN HER BLOW GUN: Collin Kelly has no comment at this time.
Carmen, how long did it take you to become fully comfortable with Cap’s iconic costume?
CARMEN CARNERO: The only thing I struggle with is the lousy decision to make the chainmail with a different shape and volume because I, in my immense wisdom, decided to draw it one by one and regretted that decision instantly. [Laughs] But I guess it looks great and distinctive in the foreground!
What was the process like for designing new additions to the series like the Outer Circle and the new Destroyer? Also, the supporting cast members!
CARMEN CARNERO: Jackson and Collin make the process easier because they have a concise plan and their descriptions helped me tremendously. Each new character has a defined aesthetic and personality, so looking for documentation would be the first step. This is a process that I enjoy very much and for these characters it was essential that they are distinguishable from each other despite belonging to the same organization. That's why in them you can see traces of various artistic currents from all continents; including modernist architecture and Brutalism that we show in the Shadow Capitol.
How challenging/freeing was getting to do the extended Cap and Bucky silent fight sequence in issue #6?
CARMEN CARNERO: Very difficult. When [Jackson and Collin told me] in the script that this issue was going to be almost silent because the emotions will outweigh the words, I panicked. But they detailed the fighting madness clearly; it's easier when they have a choreography in mind as was the case here. What was really difficult was to fit it into the continuous action style we have been using since day one. That took many hours of planning because I'm obsessed with making it all read fluidly.
What are the subtle visual cues you incorporated to differentiate Bucky as “New Revolution” from his traditional Winter Soldier look?
CARMEN CARNERO: The look and evolution in the character asked me to have a sleek and calmer design; he is no longer a spy doing the dirty work of someone in charge, now he is the one in charge. There are elements in the suit that indicate he is still ready for action, but the addition of the cape on his human arm and the new arm with a recognizable metal as seen in the series, are the two details that [show his status] has changed to a higher level. And I love the man bun, it is literally the cherry on top of the cake. [Laughs]
JACKSON LANZING: Sam Wilson and Steve have been on very different journeys, but they’re united in subtle ways. Both have complicated, deteriorating relationships with their male partners. Both are re-embracing love with the women in their lives. Both are fighting secretive forces who sit in power they haven’t earned. And both have an obvious tie to Ian Rogers, who has shown up in “Symbol of Truth” now. How Ian’s return will bring these two men together—and how both White Wolf and Bucky Barnes will throw gas on that fire—is going to be the question we want to see people ask heading into “Cold War.”
[RELATED: Meet Ian Rogers, Captain America’s Son]
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